Experimenting with Sous Vide Cooking

My lamb cooks in a sous vide water bath.

I’ve started dabbling with a new-to-me cooking technique. Not long ago, we purchased a sous vide cooker. I’ve had to start from scratch with it, learning everything from how to actually spell this French word to how to properly seal your food before cooking. By the way, I found out that “sous vide” means “under vacuum.” 

My first experience with sous vide cooking was when my brother-in-law cooked a beef tenderloin with his sous vide machine. It had incredible flavor and tenderness. Not long after that, we purchased our own sous vide device. I’ll admit, however, that it sat in the box for quite some time before I decided to use it. Trying something for the first time when you have no idea what you’re doing can be daunting. Also, if I would make something that might be a good candidate for sous vide cooking, I would just cook it my usual way, forgetting that I had another option.

When I finally did bust out my new cooking toy, my first try was a flop. I decided to try one of our arm roast steaks. That probably doesn’t make sense, so I’ll explain. The last time we had a steer butchered, I asked the locker to make more steaks and less roasts than usual. So, they turned cuts that usually get made into roasts into steaks instead. This, of course, doesn’t automatically make those cuts of meat “steak quality.” The arm roast made into a big steak was very tough. I made two mistakes when using the sous vide with this steak. I didn’t cook it long enough to get it tender, and I didn’t take the label off the outside of the plastic bag. Our butcher vacuum seals most of the meat, which is handy for sous vide cooking. However, when you put a label in hot water for hours, it disintegrates and gets the water bath icky. (This is probably not good for the sous vide machine that circulates that water.)

I use a vacuum sealer to seal the lamb in a plastic bag before cooking.

My second try went much, much better. I took a leg of lamb (no bone) and put herbs, spices, and lemons into the bag with the meat. I vacuumed-sealed it, and then set it into the water bath. (I use a styrofoam cooler for my water bath and hook the sous vide machine onto one of the sides.) The lamb came out delicious and super tender. Here’s the recipe I used.

Another win with my sous vide cooker was when I made deer tenderloin. After my failure with the steak, I try to cook meat on the longer end of the spectrum. I can put it in the water bath in the morning and take it out right before I’m ready to sear it and place the entree on the table. You can sear or grill the meat to finish it off, depending on what it is. 

My next sous vide experiment will be brisket! If you have any sous vide stories, I’d love you to share them!

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